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Thrivent’s Carolyn Armitage: The Resolution Advisors Should Make for 2022

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As head of Thrivent Advisor Network (or TAN) since June, Carolyn Armitage’s wide experience in the wealth management industry is providing Thrivent’s new independent RIA with strategic guidance that will enable the next phase of its development.

Before joining TAN, Armitage served as managing director at investment bank and consulting firm Echelon Partners, starting in 2017.

Her experience has also included roles as an independent financial advisor, producing branch manager, and head of the large Enterprise Business Management Consulting team for LPL Financial from 2013 to 2016.

In addition to holding numerous FINRA licenses, she holds the certified financial planner and certified investment management analyst designations. She also founded and runs the 501(c)(3) nonprofit True Circle Organization, which provides immediate resources, sustenance and compassion to improve the lives of people who are experiencing homelessness throughout California.

Via email, we asked Armitage a series of questions that touched not only on her professional knowledge but also on what she does off the clock.

1. What market indicator, industry statistic, regulatory change or advisor trend are you watching most closely right now and why?

Carolyn Armitage: The accelerating pace of advisor succession needs is one that we’d like to help solve. It’s, quite frankly, embarrassing that an industry that provides fiduciary retirement and estate planning advice to clients doesn’t put on their own face mask first.

Our parent company, Thrivent, has a network of advisors across the country that can step up and in when needed for TAN to be the succession plan for advisors. We have a multiyear training program to continually fill the pipeline of advisors needed to transition businesses over the next decade and beyond.

2. How has it been changing recently (2021), and how do you expect it to change (2022)?

For an advisor to find the right succession solution for their clients, employees and themselves takes time. The pace of change and available solutions will likely increase, adding options and yet complexity of the decision-making process.

3. What would you suggest advisors do now or consider doing in the future about it?

As a fiduciary to their clients, it would be prudent for advisors to make a New Year’s resolution to document and execute a formal contingency and succession plan in 2022. The former for the unexpected “retirement” being disability or death, and the latter being for their planned retirement, or 2.0, as I call it.

4. Who or what critical source of information do you track, or follow online, to keep up with this or other trends?

As an avid reader, I get a feed of all media in the industry, ThinkAdvisor included, as well as industry influencers such as Bob Veres, Michael Kitces, among others.

5. Are you changing any of your work habits at this stage of the pandemic? 

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While the pandemic has forever changed lives, it has also forced change upon an industry staunch with traditions. The new virtual world we operate in has brought newfound economies of scale that are making a dramatic impact on efficiency, teaming and client acquisition.

For example, while I grew up in Minnesota (where Thrivent Advisor Network has its headquarters) and still have family there, I wouldn’t have moved back there from Los Angeles — even for this great opportunity. Our systems allow us to work in an integrated fashion and hire best-in-class folks from across the nation.

6. What’s your biggest hobby, and what was the last activity you did related to it?

One of my passions is hiking. Being in a suburb of Los Angeles, we are blessed to have many regions to explore, from ocean trails, mountain peaks and deserts. The giant boulders of Joshua Tree were my 2021 oasis — enabling me to break from the ordinary and explore the vast region of amazing formations.

If you haven’t been there, I’d recommend you put it on your bucket list. Special note: It isn’t simply a “get off the bus and snap a picture” tour. It is a full-day adventure or multiday for an even better experience.

7. How about your latest charitable activity?

Several TAN employees came together to stuff Go Bags for people who are experiencing homelessness to give out for Christmas. We put food, toiletries, clothing and other essentials for surviving on the streets. This is a cause that started during the 2009 financial crisis and became incorporated as a 501(c) True Circle Organization several years ago.

Also, at our National Education & Community Conference at the beginning of December, we held team events for a local food bank.

8. What book are you reading now and why?

“1: How Many People Does It Take to Make a Difference?” I found this inspiring book in a bookstore in Minnesota and ended up giving it in a care package to my team for the holidays.

9. Do you have any special holiday plans or a New Year’s resolution that you’d care to share?

My word for 2022 is “stretch,” both personally and professionally. Taking the helm of TAN mid-2021 brought with it many organizational changes, and I continually challenge our team to stretch themselves beyond what they’ve known and experienced, to create stretch goals and to remember to physically stretch — since we find ourselves at a computer so much of the day.

10. Is there any other piece of advice on your mind at year-end?

Work is work — who you work with makes all the difference. At TAN, we’re building something very special, and we believe humanity thrives when people make the most of all they’ve been given. We help people achieve financial clarity, enabling lives full of meaning and gratitude.